The “lullaby mothers” of the DR Congo

The outbreak of Ebola in the DR Congo is very serious. Over the past year more than 2,000 people have died out of more than 3,000 cases. Nearly 600 of those who have died are children. New treatments are available, but many people are afraid to seek treatment because this involves being isolated away from their family and being cared for by strangers.

Yet in the midst of the suffering and sadness there are beautiful examples of love. More than 3,500 children have been orphaned or separated from their parents by the outbreak. A group of grieving women who are at the epicentre of the outbreak, known as the “lullaby mothers”, are caring for babies who are orphans or who are at risk. They are providing these little ones with a priceless tonic: the human touch.

In April Joniste Kahambu lost her three-year-old son to Ebola, but she herself survived. As a result, she has antibodies in her system that protect her against re-infection. She has returned to the clinic where she was treated and is helping to care for babies who are being kept in isolation. As a stand-in mother she feeds the infants, holds and soothes them; a labour of love that she says eases her own pain. “If I had to stay at home, I’d think too much about my son. Many babies have lost their mothers and need our love. Caring for them is my way of helping the people who looked after me.”

In March, another of the lullaby singers, Gentile Kahunia, watched two of her four children die in a week, even as she herself was responding positively to treatment at the clinic. The love she once showed them is now given to the children of other women. She says, “I feel relieved and can forget a little about the death of my children when I take care of the ones here. I treat them like they are my own.” One aid worker said, “The touch of these women provides the orphans with essential human interaction and a glimmer of hope, their selflessness, kindness and bravery are immeasurable.”

There are many Christians in the DR Congo and the love of these mothers reminds us of the transforming love of Jesus. One day a man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

The selfless courage of Andy Peat

In a unique ceremony Warrant Officer Andy Peat, a British soldier, was recently awarded the Anders Lassen Award by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. The Award recognised Andy’s extraordinary courage while serving alongside Danish colleagues in Afghanistan. It is the first time any solider outside the Danish military has received the honour. Andy is a credit to the British Army and the brave men who are serving alongside him in Afghanistan.

In January 2013 Andy, of 33 EOD Regiment, was supporting a Danish task force patrol. In the early hours of the morning they entered a compound in the Upper Gereshk Valley which was being used for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices. As the team moved into the compound an IED was triggered on the roof, severely injuring Oversergeant Rene Brink Jakobsen. At the time of the explosion Andy was only five metres away. He immediately went to provide medical assistance to Rene. However, there was the threat of more IEDs close by, one of which lay underneath Rene. Andy painstakingly searched under Rene cutting two wires to disarm the IED. As Rene was being stretchered off the roof Andy lay across the path of another IED using himself and his body armour as a shield to protect the stretcher party. Andy’s selfless actions saved several lives that night but, sadly, Rene, aged 39, died of his wounds, leaving behind a wife and three children.

At the Award Ceremony Andy and his wife, Candice, and their 3 year old daughter, Sophie, met Rene’s wife, Camilla, and her children, Sara, Maia and Thor. Andy donated the £3000 awarded to him to Rene and her family. He spoke with striking modesty about his surprise at receiving the award, “To be honest it’s just about doing your job and thinking about what you’ve got in front of you and trying your best to get out of that predicament as quickly as possible. If you take any IED operator and put him in front of the same predicament, all the guys would have done exactly the same thing.”

Andy’s actions remind me of another young man, Jesus of Nazareth, who told his disciples, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” By laying down his life on the Cross Jesus secured forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life for people from all nations who trust in him.

Love your neighbour as you love yourself

A British rider has won the Tour de France for the first time. Bradley Wiggins won the 99th Tour de France after riding more than 2000 miles, over 3 weeks, taking in some of the most beautiful scenery and highest mountain passes in France. Bradley has already won 3 Olympic gold medals, and hopes to win another one soon, but the Tour de France is his greatest victory. His success, and the way in which he achieved it, has been a great encouragement and example to many.

Bradley’s Australian father, who was an accomplished cyclist, deserted his wife and son when Bradley was just 2 years old. Bradley grew up in Kilburn in London and began learning to ride at the Herne Hill Velodrome when he was 12. When he was 18 his father, with whom he had had almost no contact, was attacked and killed in a drunken brawl in New South Wales. Following his father’s death Bradley decided not to waste his talent as a cyclist and to make his family a priority. He has continued to experience difficult times but has come through them to achieve a great success.

One of the factors which contributed to Bradley’s success in the Tour was teamwork. Every member of his team, Team Sky, rode selflessly in support of Bradley as their leader. One of the team, Chris Froome, who came second in the Tour, seemed to have a real chance of winning the race himself, but rode alongside Bradley on many of the key stages, including the demanding mountain stages. On one stage someone put tacks on the road and many riders had punctures, including the defending champion Cadel Evans, who was one of Bradley’s greatest challengers. Bradley encouraged the main group of riders to slow down to allow the riders who had punctures to catch up and not be disadvantaged.

We live in a world where selfishness is common. Many people think the main thing is to look after No 1. The Bible teaches us the importance of caring for one another. One of the greatest commandments is, “You shall love your neighbour, as you love yourself.” Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus exemplified this teaching in the supreme act of selflessness when he died on the Cross to pay the price of our sins.